The Indiana Pacers, losingest NBA Playoffs combatant in recent years, have hung with the Chicago Bulls, winningest team of the season, for two games in their first-round series. Yet the Bulls have two wins, thanks in no small part to Derrick Rose, the presumptive MVP (and No. 4 Most Improved Player, as it were) who has been downright dominant in the closing minutes of each game of this series.
The Bulls weren't supposed to need Derrick Rose to be, well, Derrick Rose, not against the Pacers. Indiana's best player is either Danny Granger -- a scoring wing who alternately isn't aggressive or refuses to pass; when he does pass, it's consistently about two feet from where his teammate could actually use it; on defense, he's such a minus Coach K benched him with glee in Turkey -- or Roy Hibbert -- a man who'd make a bouillabaise look consistent. Or it could be Darren Collison, the lightning bug point guard who as frequently looks like a bug splattered on Rose's figurative windshield as he does lightning. Or Tyler Hansbrough, a bizarre little of mass/mess of activity who shoots and jumps like a frog. You see the problem, yes?
In this series, perhaps Paul George, the anonymous rookie from Fresno State, has been the most important Pacer. He managed to cuff Rose for much of Game 2, working against the Bulls' incessant stream of pick-and-roll action hard and with smarts. But on offense, he's a bit of a disaster; Indiana had the ball in George's hands on one late crucial possession, and the rook just botched it completely, eventually committing a turnover.
That this collection of mad men has had the Bulls on the ropes in Chicago twice is nothing less than shocking. The Bulls were a masterful road team all season -- they were masterful everywhere, really -- and a place like Indiana shouldn't jingle their nerves, not given the talent disparity. But the Pacers have done something crazy twice in a row. Shall we make it a third?